Plantain Bread

*If you plan to skip me talking, please read the last three paragraphs which include recipe info

We're all pretty familiar with bananas, they go ripe and brown and spotty and then they get tossed, which felt sad to someone somewhere so they decided to turn them into bread. A dessert! A breakfast! A snack! That thing that you hoover into your face while still a bit warm from the oven with a cup of coffee or stack ice cream on in the middle of the night.

There's probably a reason no one thought to do this with plantains and it's pretty obvious to me. No plantain has ever had the chance to turn overripe to the point of throwing away.

Why? Because we eat them. We eat them green, we eat them ripe, we fry them, boil them, bake them. They are there if you need breakfast, on the side of your plate at dinner and snatched off of paper towels while still hot from the oil before you start either of those meals. We learn to say "HOHOHOHOH" with too hot plantain stuffed in our mouths from childhood, right?

They are sweet and starchy little gems probably (definitely) gifted to us by the gods in Africa and the Caribbean a billion years ago. Sure, there are those of you who are still unfamiliar with the fruit and find it odd that the blacker and more abused the skin looks the quicker people are to pluck them from market shelves but there are many millions of people who barely go a day without eating plantain cooked way or another. Join the winning team.

Even I feel pretty passionate about plantains and they're not my favorite thing – most likely because they look like bananas which again, I loathe – and otherwise because they are so ubiquitous with meals at home, even sometimes alongside meals they just don't belong with. Plantains and Italian lasagna? No thanks! Even still, plantains are a staple and home doesn't really feel like home unless I have a few laying around ready to hit hot oil and fry up crunchy, soft and sweet at a moments notice.

One day I wondered... "why is there no plantain bread?" And that's due to the fact that no one has ever said no to a plantain in it's sweetest, ripest state as the best candidate to fry. In my house when the plantain is getting to black, we don't toss it, we fry it first. No one bothered to think up what to do with them if it ever did happen if they didn't cherry pick that one to eat first.

Plantain are a bit more stubborn than bananas and by stubborn I mean starchy, so even at their ripest and sweetest they're still not exactly tender enough to mash with a fork. I baked them first to soften and maximize the sweetness. You can roast in the skin or peel, lightly oil a sheet of tin foil and roast them in a tented package. Do this and leave the oven on as to preheat or bake the plantains the night or morning before and let them cool. Don't mix them with eggs when piping hot – you'll cook the eggs.

I let these plantain ripen until the skins were mostly black with few patchy yellow spots, just a day or two beyond frying stage. In my experimenting the very blackest plantain where a bit too gummy and starchy when mashing. The younger plantain are also a bit more forgiving in the mashing process if you want a lump free bread. I left a number of chunks of plantain in the batter which helps drive home the flavor and offers some texture.

After that you need one bowl, a fork and a loaf pan. Don't have buttermilk? Make your own by pouring the necessary amount of milk, removing one tablespoon of it and replacing it with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and letting it sit on the counter for 5 minutes.

Key to making a good quick bread is, DO NOT OVER MIX, when you over mix it becomes dense. If you've ever made mashed potatoes, got frustrated with hand mashing and stuck them in a food processor you know that the outcome is not pretty, it's gummy and gloppy and unpleasant. Plantains are starchy like potatoes so you'll get a similar result by using an immersion blender or food processor here. Use a potato masher, a fork or a hand mixer at a low setting. You want to incorporate the ingredients until they're just blended, not mix them into oblivion. It's even okay if you see pockets of flour in the dough as you slide them into your baking pan.

3 ripe plantain, baked until soft
2 large eggs
1 cup dark or light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla

(optional) 30 second caramel drizzle

1 tbsp light or dark brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp half and half, milk or heavy cream
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

for the caramel drizzle
In a small bowl combine all ingredients, stir gently. Microwave for 15 seconds, stir. Microwave and additional 15 seconds and stir. In the final 10-15 minutes of cooking the bread spoon caramel drizzle over the top  to create a delicately sweet, crunchy crust. Do this right as you need it so it's warm as you spoon it over the bread.

1) Oven preheat to 350. Bake plantains in their skins or in a lighted oiled and tented tinfoil packet at 350 for 35 minutes or until pierced easily with a fork. Cool for 10 minutes. Use this ten minutes to grease and line your baking pan with parchment paper, if you have it.

1a) If you are making buttermilk set 1 cup of milk in a small bowl, remove 1 tablespoon of milk and replace with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, lemon or lime juice (fresh or bottled), give it a quick stir and allow to rest until needed.

2) In a large bowl mash the plantain with a fork or potato masher until large pieces are gone, about 5 minutes. Add all wet ingredients; oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and sugar. Stir to combine.

3) Add all dry ingredients. Flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and allspice, stir gently to mix. Careful not to over mix.

4) Pour batter into loaf pan and  Bake for 50-60 minutes. Start checking at 50 minutes for doneness. If testing with a toothpick it should not be wet batter coating the toothpick but small, sticky crumbs, it will continue to cook during the rest time. Remove and rest for 20-30 minutes.

Store bread for a up to 3 days once cool, wrap tightly in saran wrap and keep in the fridge.

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